Please visit to see the new & improved site.
Please visit to see the new & improved site.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Guest Post: 3M - Principles for Avoiding Greenwashing

Keith Miller is Manager of Environmental Initiatives and Sustainability at 3M, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mr. Miller leads the Environmental Initiatives and Sustainability Group within the Environmental, Health and Safety Operations (EHS Operations) organization at 3M. He is responsible for 3M environmental initiatives including Environmental Targets for 2010 (ET’10), Pollution Prevention Pays (3P) and Greenhouse Gas Management. He has been involved in sustainability activities at 3M since 1995 and represents 3M in various environmental and sustainability organizations including the Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

I spoke at the Conference Board’s annual Business and Sustainability Conference in DC last week. In response to a question on how at 3M we accurately represent the environmental attributes of our products I outlined some principles that we have found very valuable. They have become embedded in the culture at 3M as business as usual, and Kevin asked me if I would share them in a guest post. So here goes - I hope you find them as valuable as we have at 3M. Perhaps they will apply for you in the environmental space, but also in other areas of product marketing claims.
Firstly, there are no blanket statements that ‘this product is green’. We avoid using broad environmental claims such as "safe for the environment" or environmentally friendly". Claims must be specific and be clear to customers or the general public.

Secondly, claims must be relevant to the product. For example, claiming that a product is cadmium free, when the product has never contained cadmium, and nor have any of its competitors, is not relevant.

Thirdly, that there must be compelling data to substantiate the claim. We need to know the claim is technically accurate.

I think that these are three very important principles. They probably shouldn’t need saying, but I think that they do and I think they will go a long way to avoid greenwashing. At 3M, we implement these principles through our Environmental Marketing Claims Committee. The committee reviews and approves the environmental claims from our business units.

These principles are communicated in our Environmental Marketing Claims Policy. This policy and our review process were established way back in 1990 to ensure that 3M has a coordinated, consistent and responsible approach to environmental claims. I think that it is important for companies marketing in the "green space" to have a business process in place that covers environmental claims.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who cares more ? IT professionals, participate in our survey !

Our professional services team carries out regular surveys of the IT community on topics such as Voice over IP, ethical hacking and security. This week we have posted a survey on Green IT, looking especially at what companies are doing in this space and how the company’s prioritization accorded to green issues contrasts with the prioritization accorded by the individual IT professional.

You can take part in the survey and have a chance to win a $100 Amex certificate here. But do it straight away. The survey will only be up for a couple of days. I will share some of the results on my blog when we have analyzed them.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Launching CSR Programs Internationally

Earlier this week I presented on a webinar organized by Truist - partner for the BT Americas’ employee charity match program. The event looked at international differences in corporate responsibility and particularly in employee giving programs.

I have blogged about TransAtlantic differences before in Legal Doesn’t Equal Sustainable and in this post on the contrasting approaches to climate change of the respective chambers of commerce in the UK and USA.

Another contrast, that I described on the webinar earlier today, is between the broad approach to the role of government in providing a social safety net in Europe compared with the less expansive approach in the USA. I believe that as a result, companies, employees and shareholders in the USA see the corporation as having a comparatively stronger role in philanthropy to supplement the role of government.

In contrast though, European companies have a more expansive view of their long term role as employers as part of their corporate responsibility than perhaps do their American counterparts. I recently saw this articulated in a paper The Responsibility Paradox: Multinational Firms and Global Corporate Social Responsibility(University of Michigan; Davis, Whitman and Zald April 2006).

“The United States remains unique today in the flexibility and fluidity of its labor markets. In most other industrialized countries, some combination of more powerful unions, stronger labor protection legislation, or more deeply embedded social mores have preserved stable employment relationships”.

On the webinar Mark Shamley (President, ACCP) provided some great illustrative examples from BD and from Starbucks, of the impact of cultural differences on running employee programs outside of the USA.

There is no one answer to launching corporate responsibility programs outside of the home country, but it pays to be responsive to cultural differences and to know your objective. If the intent of a CSR program is to generate employee goodwill it can be counter productive to export an American version of employee philanthropy. Better to tell the distant country the intention and let them design an appropriate program. However if the intention is to spread corporate culture such that employees in another country understand and share in the culture of the home country, where head office is based, then exporting a program ‘as is’ might be the right thing to do.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Should Businesses be 'Giving Back to the Community' ?

I have always been uncomfortable when I hear businesses talk about CSR and philanthropy in terms of 'giving back to the community'. I realize of course that in many ways it is only a turn of phrase, but the language we use is important and the implication of giving back is that we have somehow taken away. And I believe that this is how some people, inside and outside of corporations, think of corporate giving. That we are giving back to compensate for having taken away. The use of the terminology perpetuates the view.

There are different forms of giving. Community investment is exactly what it says it is - a company invests in communities in which it operates for reasons such as employee engagement, customer engagement, market development and risk mitigation. But it isn’t giving back to compensate for having taken away.

Philanthropy is the purely altruistic giving of part of a company's profits to charity. Some companies have philanthropic giving written explicitly into their mission (eg. Wholefoods). Others donate to charity with the implicit support of their shareholders. But again, it isn’t giving back to compensate for having taken away.

If by our actions we are taking away, we should stop taking away, rather than giving back a little to compensate. And I think there is a role for the corporate responsibility practitioner here to be involved not just in philanthropy, but in the broader operations and services of the company and the impact of those activities on the community and environment. Where that impact has negative components there is a need to address and mitigate or reverse that negative impact.

Either way, I would like us to find alternative terminology to “giving back to the community” to describe the activities of corporate responsibility.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Unconferencing in DC

Having recently posted in Is Blogging Good for Corporate Responsibility ? on resisting the urge to use a blog for reporting on where one is right now I am going to do just that. I have been inspired to do so by the Green Innovation for Business Unconference that I am attending right now. I am writing this during a break. If you are not here now, you are too late - we wind up in about an hour. But if you are in Boston, Silicon Valley or Austin you can attend repeat events in the future.

There are no keynotes, no speaker panels and no preset agenda. There is a convening topic - obvious from the name of the event. There is great participation from companies, NGOs, government and private individuals. And there is a great facilitation process and some simple ground rules that have provided the framework around which the agenda was set at the beginning of the day. The unconference provides a format for all the networking I value so much at conferences and for the rich discussion and learning that is often so curtailed in the Q&A sessions at the end of conference presentations.

If you are interested in the content, you can see it at the conference wiki. Much has been transcribed there in real time.

Going back in to the closing session now.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Globalization – Possibilities and Pitfalls Webinar

I run an employee charity match program for BT in North America. It enables employees to make donations to charity and receive a partial match from the company. As well as the employee engagement benefits, it is a way of allowing employee stakeholders to determine the direction of some of the company’s giving – employees vote with their own dollars.

We work with an external vendor Truist to run our program. I will participating, together with Mark Shamley (President,ACCP) in a webinar that Truist is holding at 12.00pm ET on Tuesday June 16th looking at globalization of global giving programs. I will be speaking about the impact of Transatlantic cultural differences on all aspects of corporate responsibility and I believe Mark is going to be addressing more specifically the issues of global corporate giving programs.

The Webinar is free. If you are interested you can sign up here. It would be great to have some readers of my blog on the call.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

ITU Paper – Early Mention of Adaptation

In contrast with the in-depth report Recent Moves in Green Telecom I wrote about last week , a recent short and easy read by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) “Tackling Climate change – Information and communication technologies lead the way” provides a good overview of the breadth of the role ICTs can play in this space. It is a good primer for green IT.

The report of course includes the role ICTs can play in reducing overall carbon emissions, referring out to SMART 2020 as the basis for part of the paper. But the paper also brings prominence to aspects of the role of ICTs that are frequently missed. Using the Four Dimensions of Sustainability as a framework those aspects are;

Direct Impact - The paper brings out the importance of implementation of standards in next generation networks (NGN) and in digital wireless devices to realize the potential for significant reduction in power consumption of those networks.

Direct Impact and Products in-Use – The need for standardized measurement of the entire lifecycle of carbon emissions of ICT products and services

Enabled Impact - The use of ICTs to measure and monitor change in climate and related environmental attributes, together with one of the first mentions I have seen of the role of ICTs in adaptation. Sadly that involves assisting with response to increasing numbers of natural disasters,

Inform and Influence - Using ICTs as a communication tool to disseminate information.

It is encouraging to see adaptation enter discussion in the ICT sector. I am starting to hear it talked about more frequently in other sectors too.

Unfortunately I have not been able to find a copy of the paper online, but as soon as I do I will post it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In Depth Analysis of Network Energy Efficiency, but what about ‘Always-On’ ?

I have been neglectful my topic of the intersection between Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and sustainability. Let me try and redress that balance a little with a couple of posts that I have been meaning to write.

I was recently (thanks Lynn !) sent a link to an in depth review by Tim Hills in Light Reading Europe Recent Moves in Green Telecom. We often focus on data centers because of the concentrated nature of their energy consumption, while overlooking networks because they are so much more dispersed in their energy consumption patterns. This paper gives a pretty comprehensive review of the various industry bodies and their related initiatives on improving the energy efficiency of the network and of the customer premise equipment (CPE) that hangs off it. Most of the initiatives reviewed focus on improving the efficiency of the network architecture we now have and it is great to see how much is going on in this space. Worth a look for people involved in networks and CPE.

The only thing I thought missing was explicitly drawing out the ‘always-on’ issue we currently face. That is, as I can best describe it, that the devices we attach to the network tend to be ‘always-on’ because the IP network was designed to work that way. The network doesn’t like to have to do too many of the signaling handshakes required when we power up a piece of equipment. And we (the user) don’t like the delay when we power something up and wait for it to connect, so we leave things ‘always-on’. But we don’t need ‘always on’, we need ‘always available’ (just like old telephones used to be – no current drawn unless the bell was ringing or the handset lifted). Future generations of networks and associated standards need to try and address this and be designed in a way that no current need be drawn by the CPE device when it is idle.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

BT’s 2009 Sustainability Review Released

I try not to write corporate news on my blog too often, but I do want to identify that BT’s sustainability report came out last week.

The key headlines from the report are:

• a 43% reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions intensity from 1997 – good progress against our 80% reduction target by 2020
• 50% of waste from our UK operations is now recycled, with 17% less of total UK waste going to landfill sites than in 2008
• 50,000 tonnes of CO2 saved annually for our customers by improving the energy efficiency of our home-phone range
• the development of a sustainability framework embedded into our product development process and a low carbon opportunities map which has highlighted some real growth areas for the company.

The sustainability report “Changing World: Sustained Values 2009” can be downloaded or explored online from the BT Better World website.